If running is your passion, here are three good reasons to make cross-training a priority:

  1. YOU'LL REDUCE YOUR INJURY RISK. Doing a hard run more than two or
    three times a week can be asking for trouble. Cross training with
    activities like cycling and skating can give you a good workout without
    the joint pounding that running entails.
  2. YOU CAN BUILD STRONGER LEGS. On your non-running days, try
    activities like stair climbing, training with weights, cycling and
    playing tennis. The benefits: Stronger leg muscles will increase your
    efficiency and speed as a runner.
  3. YOU CAN BECOME MORE AEROBICALLY FIT. Cycling, skating, swimming,
    tennis and other cross-training activities if done at an adequate
    intensity level for you -- can increase your cardiovascular capacity.
    And that can only improve your running performance.

So if you've decided to pursue some outdoor cross-training activities on your days off from running. Here's some advice on how to proceed:

  • SHOW A LITTLE HUMILITY. Being in great running shape doesn't mean you're immediately fit enough to excel in a new sport or activity. (Think about it: One purpose of cross training is to work muscles you DON'T use as much in running.)
  • START SLOWLY. Begin with 20 minutes of your new activity, and gradually build in duration and intensity over time.
  • CONSIDER YOUR EXISTING INJURIES. Make sure that the cross-training activities you choose don't put added stress on existing injuries. For example, if your Achilles tendons are tender from running, peddling a bicycle might aggravate those injuries.
  • STOP WHEN YOU'RE TIRED. Again, it gets back to the humility issue. A new activity will likely tire you more quickly than your running workouts do. If you're tempted to push beyond your fatigue threshold, remember that overdoing it can defeat the original purpose of cross-training: to improve your running performance.